United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
WILLIAM M. DANIELS JR., Plaintiff
DAVID PITKINS, ET AL., Defendants
RICHARD P. CONABOY United States District Judge
M. Daniels, Jr., an inmate presently confined at the State
Correctional Institution, Albion, Pennsylvania (SCI-Albion),
filed this pro se civil rights action in the Centre
County Court of Common Pleas by. An amended complaint was
thereafter filed. See Doc. 2-1, p. 18. On December
15, 2014, Plaintiff's action was removed to this Court by
Defendant Maria Leahy pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441
See Doc. 1, ¶ 9. By Order dated June 26, 2015,
Plaintiff's objections to the removal were denied.
Memorandum and Order dated August 19, 2015, Defendant
Leahy's motion to dismiss was partially granted.
See Doc. 10. Specifically, it was determined that
Leahy was entitled to entry of dismissal with exception of
the allegation that she failed to protect Plaintiff from
unconstitutional conditions of confinement. See Doc.
24. By Memorandum and Order dated February 17, 2017, a motion
for summary judgement by Defendant Leahy was granted.
See Doc. 62.
surviving claims in the Amended Complaint regards events
which allegedly transpired during Daniels' previous
incarceration at the Benner State Correctional Institution,
Bellefonte, Pennsylvania (SCI-Benner). Remaining
Defendants are the following SCI-Benner employees:
Superintendent David Pitkins, Deputy Superintendents Tammy
Ferguson and Leo Glass, Counselor Bobbi Jo Salamon, and
Security Lieutenant Larry Hoffman.
to the Amended Complaint Daniels was suspected of swallowing
contraband on April 25, 2014 after being kissed by a female
visitor at SCI-Benner. After the encounter between Plaintiff and
his visitor, he was strip searched by a non-defendant,
Lieutenant Green, and placed in a POC cell which was set up as a
dry cell, i.e. one with no running water. Daniels adds that
he was given a suicide smock to wear, had one hand handcuffed
to a bed and was provided with a blanket. Daniels was placed
under constant surveillance and his bodily waste was examined
in an effort to determine if he passed any contraband/drugs.
The Plaintiff alleges that he initially told that after three
clean bowl movements he would be released. Despite complying
with that requirement, Daniels states that he remained in the
dry cell until May 2, 2014. Plaintiff maintains that while in
the dry cell he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions
of confinement because he was not allowed to clean himself
for the first four days of his placement; was only provided
with drinking water at meal time; and was subjected to
result of prison's officials' alleged erroneous
determination that Plaintiff had swallowed a balloon
containing drugs, the inmate was issued a misconduct charging
him with possession of contraband, refusing to obey an order,
lying to an employee, failure to report the presence of
contraband, and violation of visiting room
regulations. Daniels claims that because he was never
issued a confiscation slip in accordance with prison policy
and the unknown substance allegedly discovered in his stool
was never identified, the finding of guilt on the misconduct
charges was improper. Plaintiff contends that the
disciplinary proceeding violated due process, and constituted
a malicious prosecution. See id. at ¶ 66.
Amended Complaint also asserts that his dry cell placement
violated his rights under the Equal Protection Clause.
See id. at ¶ 30. The final claim raised by
Plaintiff is that he was the subject of a retaliatory
transfer to the Security Threat Group Management Unit (STGMU)
at another state correctional facility. Daniels asserts that
although he was a leader of the Crips gang over twenty years
earlier, said involvement did not warrant his transfer and
that it was undertaken as retaliation and to coverup the
meritless disciplinary charges he was issued at SCI-Benner.
pending is Remaining Defendants' motion seeking entry of
summary judgment. See Doc. 43. The motion seeks
entry of summary judgment on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff
has failed to show personal involvement by the Remaining
Defendants in the alleged violations of his constitutional
rights and the conditions of his dry cell placement were not
unconstitutional; (2) the doctrine of sovereign immunity bars
consideration of Plaintiff's state law claim of malicious
prosecution;(3) they are entitled to qualified immunity; (4)
the Amended Complaint does not raise viable due process and
equal protection allegations; and (5) Plaintiff has not
sufficiently plead a retaliation claim. The opposed motion is
ripe for consideration.
judgment is proper if "the pleadings, the discovery and
disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that
the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of
law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); See also Saldana v. Kmart
Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 231-32 (3d Cir. 2001). A factual
dispute is "material" if it might affect the
outcome of the suit under the applicable law. Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual
dispute is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient
evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable fact-finder
to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at
248. The court must resolve all doubts as to the existence of
a genuine issue of material fact in favor of the non-moving
party. Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232; see also Reeder
v. Sybron Transition Corp., 142 F.R.D. 607, 609 (M.D.
Pa. 1992). Unsubstantiated arguments made in briefs are not
considered evidence of asserted facts. Versarge v.
Township of Clinton, 984 F.2d 1359, 1370 (3d Cir. 1993).
the moving party has shown that there is an absence of
evidence to support the claims of the non-moving party, the
non-moving party may not simply sit back and rest on the
allegations in its complaint. See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). Instead, it must
"go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or
by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial." Id.
(internal quotations omitted); see also Saldana, 260
F.3d at 232 (citations omitted). Summary judgment should be
granted where a party "fails to make a showing
sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential
to that party's case, and on which that party will bear
the burden at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at
322-23. " ''Such affirmative evidence -
regardless of whether it is direct or circumstantial - must
amount to more than a scintilla, but may amount to less (in
the evaluation of the court) than a preponderance.'"
Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232 (quoting Williams v.
Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir.
Defendants initially assert that Superintendent Pitkins,
Deputy Superintendent Ferguson and Counselor Salamon did not
have contact with Plaintiff during his eight (8) day dry cell
placement. See Doc. 50, p. 9. They add that the
Amended Complaint acknowledges that Deputy Superintendent
Glass did not have any contact with Plaintiff in the dry cell
until after the inmate had been permitted to wash up and was
given a new smock and blanket. Finally, the Remaining
Defendants note that the Amended Complaint alleges only that
Lieutenant Hoffman was seen in the area of the dry cell.
Based upon those considerations, Remaining Defendants
conclude that since there are no viable assertions that they
were involved or even aware of Daniels' challenged
treatment, the Amended Complaint is improperly seeking to
establish liability against them based upon their respective
supervisory roles within the prison.
plaintiff, in order to state an actionable civil rights
claim, must plead two essential elements: (1) that the
conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under
color of law, and (2) that said conduct deprived the
plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the
Constitution or laws of the United States. Groman v.
Township of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 638 (3d Cir. 1995);
Shaw by Strain v. Strackhouse, 920 F.2d 1135,
1141-42 (3d Cir. 1990).
rights claims brought cannot be premised on a theory of
respondeat superior. Rode v. Dellarciprete,
845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988). Rather, each named
defendant must be shown, via the complaint's allegations,
to have been personally involved in the events or occurrences
which underlie a claim. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S.
362 (1976); Hampton v. Holmesburg Prison
Officials, 546 F.2d 1077 (3d Cir. 1976). As explained in
A defendant in a civil rights action must have personal
involvement in the alleged wrongs. . . . [P]ersonal
involvement can be shown through allegations of personal
direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence.
Allegations of participation or actual knowledge and
acquiescence, however, must be made with appropriate
Rode, 845 F.2d at 1207.
also have no constitutionally protected right to a grievance
procedure. See Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners'
Labor Union, Inc., 433 U.S. 119, 137-38 (1977) (Burger,
C.J., concurring) ("I do not suggest that the
[grievance] procedures are constitutionally mandated.");
Speight v. Sims, No. 08-2038, 2008 WL 2600723 at *1
(3d. Cir. Jun 30, 2008) (citing Massey v. Helman,
259 F.3d 641, 647 (7th Cir. 2001) ("[T]he existence of a
prison grievance procedure confers no liberty interest on a
prisoners do have a constitutional right to seek redress of
their grievances from the government, that right is the right
of access to the courts which is not compromised by the
failure of prison officials to address an inmate's
grievance. See Flick v. Alba, 932 F.2d 728, 729 (8th
Cir. 1991) (federal grievance regulations providing for
administrative remedy procedure do not create liberty
interest in access to that procedure). Pursuant to those
decisions, any attempt by Plaintiff to establish liability
against Remaining Defendants based upon their handling of his
administrative grievances or complaints does not support a
constitutional claim. See also Alexander v.
Gennarini, 144 Fed.Appx. 924, 925 (3d Cir.
2005)(involvement in post-incident grievance process not a
basis for § 1983 liability); Prvor-El v. Kelly,
892 F.Supp. 261, 275 (D. D.C. 1995) (because prison grievance
procedure does not confer any substantive constitutional
rights upon prison inmates, the prison officials' failure
to comply with grievance procedure is not actionable).
support of the lack of personal involvement argument,
Superintendent Pitkins, Deputy Superintendent Ferguson and
Counselor Salamon have each submitted declarations under
penalty of perjury which similarly state that although they
knew of Daniels' dry cell placement and the basis for it
they were not aware and no one contacted them concerning
Plaintiff s claims that he was not being allowed to wash his
hands after urinating and defecating or of his concerns that
urine and fecal matter was accumulating on his person, smock,
and bedding. See Docs. 57-1, -57-2, & 57-4,
¶ ¶ 4- 7. Moreover, they did not recall having
personal contact with Plaintiff while he was in the dry cell.
declarations by Deputy Superintendent Glass and Lieutenant
Hoffman states that although they did recall having contact
with Plaintiff while he was in the dry cell (Glass on April
30, 2014) they also had not been contacted regarding any lack
of hand washing related claim by Plaintiff. See
Docs. 57-3, 57-5, ¶¶ 4-6
upon this Court's review of the record, especially the
Amended Complaint itself, it was a non-defendant, Lieutenant
Green, who removed Plaintiff from the visitors' area,
strip searched him and him handcuffed and placed in the dry
cell. There is no allegation that Green was directed to do so
by any of the Remaining Defendants. Plaintiff next indicates
that it was Captain Anstead and ...